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Martin v. James

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

June 9, 2017



          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff, Chad Allen Martin, filed a pro se civil-rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (DN 30). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.


         At the time Plaintiff filed his complaint, he was a pretrial detainee at the Warren County Regional Jail (WCRJ). The Court allowed to proceed a claim that Defendant WCRJ Captain Shawn Whittlesey tazed Plaintiff on August 22, 2015, while Plaintiff was handcuffed to a restraint chair and that on December 22, 2015, Defendant WCRJ Captain Kimberly James sprayed Plaintiff with mace and tazed him. The Court also allowed Plaintiff's allegation concerning being moved to “H-7” to go forward. According to the complaint, on June 17, 2016, Plaintiff was moved to H-7 despite having told Defendants that he would be in danger if he was moved there. He alleged that in H-7 he was “jumped” twice, suffering injuries to his face, jaw, and hand.

         In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). They state that Plaintiff did not grieve the August 22, 2015, incident or the December 22, 2015, incident. Defendants further argue that, while Plaintiff did file a grievance with respect to the June 2016 incident, he did not appeal from the initial response to the grievance and therefore did not fully exhaust his administrative remedies.

         In response (DN 40), Plaintiff argues that the reason he was unable to file grievances regarding the episodes of being tazed is that he was on suicide watch and suicide watch inmates are not allowed to have pens or pencils because they could use them to harm themselves. He argues that discovery will change the outcome of his case because it will show that Defendants wronged him. He states that he wishes to use discovery to obtain the suicide watch logs to prove that he was on suicide watch.

         In reply (DN 41), Defendants point out that Plaintiff's response to their summary-judgment motion was not verified and that, in that response, Plaintiff does not deny that he failed to file grievances about the incidents occurring on August 22, 2015, and December 22, 2015. They also point out that Plaintiff does not deny that he failed to appeal the denial of his grievance related to the June 2016 incident and that he offers no reason for that failure.

         Defendants further argue that Plaintiff's contention that he could not file grievances due to being on suicide watch is erroneous. They point out that Plaintiff was aware of WCRJ's grievance procedure and that he did not claim that WCRJ staff refused to provide him with grievance forms or writing materials. They explain that suicide watch inmates are provided full access to the WCRJ's grievance process upon request. In support, they attach the affidavit of Defendant Causey and other documents, including the grievance Plaintiff filed related to the June 2016 incident.

         Plaintiff filed a sur-reply (DN 43). Plaintiff again asserts that he was not allowed pens, paper, or pencils while on suicide watch. He also asks the Court to take note that the grievance form attached to the summary-judgment motion “has no appeal process on it.” He asks, “So how can I exhaust further if their form doesn't allow for it?”


         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         The moving party's burden may be discharged by demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's case for which he has the burden of proof. Id. Once the moving party demonstrates this lack of evidence, the burden passes to the nonmoving party to establish, after an adequate opportunity for discovery, the existence of a disputed factual element essential to his case with respect to which he bears the burden of proof. Id. If the record taken as a whole could not lead the trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, the motion for summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmoving party must do more than raise some doubt as to the existence of a fact; the nonmoving party must produce evidence that would be sufficient to require submission of the issue to the jury. Lucas v. Leaseway Multi Transp. Serv., Inc., 738 F.Supp. 214, 217 (E.D. Mich. 1990).

         Prisoner civil-rights cases are subject to the PLRA's mandate that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under § 1983 . . . by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). To exhaust a claim, a prisoner must proceed through all of the steps of a prison's or jail's grievance process, because an inmate “cannot abandon the process before completion and claim that he has exhausted his remedies.” Hartsfield v. Vidor, 199 F.3d 305, 309 (6th Cir. 1999). The Supreme Court held in Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006), that failure to “properly” exhaust bars suit in federal court. “Proper exhaustion” means that the plaintiff complied with the ...

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